Trombonist Mauro Ottolini's diverse and multifaceted world completely unravels in this album; a maze of exciting and compelling sounds where, in the lucid madness of his band Sousaphonix, complete fulfilment is found. "The Sky Above Braddock is a limbo, where one finds lost and forgotten souls. The music in this album was inspired by a short story I read about a borough of Pittsburgh, Braddock. It sweetly and subtly intoxicated my artistic vein… A thrilling provocation." (M. Ottolini)
This essential four-LP box set features trumpeter Chet Baker leading his own group during the 1953-1956 period (shortly after the breakup of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet) with pianist Russ Freeman, either Bob Whitlock, Carson Smith, Joe Mondragon, Jimmy Bond, or Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Bobby White, Larry Bunker, Shelly Manne, Bob Neel, Peter Littman, or Lawrence Marable on drums. Baker is heard at his coolest (mostly before he became influenced by Miles Davis); some of the later selections also feature his first recorded vocals. Because the Mosaic box sets are limited editions, they should be acquired as soon as possible.
The original Chico Hamilton Quintet was one of the last significant West Coast jazz bands of the cool era. Consisting of Buddy Collette on reeds (flute, clarinet, alto, and tenor), guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and the drummer/leader, the most distinctive element in the group's identity was cellist Fred Katz. The band could play quite softly, blending together elements of bop and classical music into their popular sound and occupying their own niche. This six-CD, limited-edition box set from 1997 starts off with a Hamilton drum solo from a 1954 performance with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet; it contains three full albums and many previously unreleased numbers) by the original Chico Hamilton band and also has quite a few titles from the second Hamilton group (which has Paul Horn and John Pisano in the places of Collette and Hall).
During a five-year period the Master Jazz label recorded 11 swing-based pianists in solo settings. Although the label went under later in the decade, the recordings were treasured by collectors. Mosaic, on this four-CD set, brought back all of the music from the original five-volume Master Jazz Piano series, adding two unissued selections and a full album released separately of Ram Ramirez's playing. In addition to Ramirez (who is heard on 13 numbers), there are 13 performances by Earl Hines, four apiece from Claude Hopkins, Cliff Jackson, Keith Dunham, Sonny White, Teddy Wilson, Cliff Smalls and the obscure Gloria Hearn, eight by Jay McShann and two from Sir Charles Thompson. Most of these pianists (other than Hines and Wilson) rarely recorded during this period in their careers, making this box very important both musically and historically.
Drummer Art Blakey led many great editions of the Jazz Messengers from the inaugural mid-'50s sessions until his death in the '90s. While arguments rage regarding which was his best, there is no doubt that the 1960-1961 unit figures in the debate. This wonderful six-disc set, notated with care and painstaking detail by Bob Blumenthal, covers studio and live sessions from March 6, 1960, to May 27, 1961, with the same personnel on all but two songs. Producer Michael Cuscuna used only first issue dates, and while he included some alternate takes, he did not litter the discs with second-rate vault material. They smoothly detail the band's evolution, cohesion, and maturation. This set, as with all Mosaic boxes, goes beyond essential. Get it post haste.